pakistan
Sunday Aug 28 2022
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PTI's US wing lobbying firm draws attention to cases against party leaders

PTI leader Shahbaz Gill brought to court by police for a hearing in Islamabad district and sessions court on Friday. —Online
PTI leader Shahbaz Gill brought to court by police for a hearing in Islamabad district and sessions court on Friday. —Online 

  • PTI hired US lobbying firm last month to improve PTI’s relations with Washington.
  • Firm approaches influential Western media organisations to highlight basic rights violations against party leaders and supporters
  • Documents say that PR firm would "contact journalists, editors, producers and columnists on behalf of PTI USA." 


WASHINGTON/LONDON: PTI hired US-based public relations and lobbying firm Fenton/Arlook LLC has been reaching out to western media outlets and human rights bodies focusing on the current political situation in Pakistan, especially cases registered against PTI supporters, Geo News has learnt through reliable contacts.

The firm hired earlier this month by PTI-USA to improve PTI’s relations with Washington has approached the influential Western media organisations highlighting basic rights violations against party leaders and supporters.

The documents filed with the US Department of Justice under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) state that the firm was to support "the Tehreek-e-Insaaf party's goals for good relations with the United States and the Pakistani diaspora in the US”.

The documents say that the PR firm would "contact journalists, editors, producers and columnists on behalf of PTI USA to explain their views to the US media only. This may include arranging interviews, placing opeds, and other standard media and public relations activities".

The emails sent from the firm to UK dailies allege that abusive actions were being taken against PTI supporters by the current government of Pakistan in the centre. The News has seen these emails. 

The emails essentially pitched that PTI leaders should be interviewed to hear first-hand accounts of how human rights were being violated under the current Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) government. In one email, the firm mentioned the case of Shahbaz Gill, the former PM Imran Khan’s chief of staff who was arrested a couple of weeks ago on sedition charges after he called for mutiny within the ranks of Pakistan armed forces. 

Gill has accused — and Imran Khan has supported the claim – that he was sexually abused and tortured after being arrested. Fenton/Arlook LLC asked the media to highlight the incidents of torture and abuse in its reporting and offered to provide comments, images and videos to establish that rights violations were taking place in Pakistan. In a recent email, Fenton/Arlook LLC drew attention to the arrest of anchor and youtuber Jameel Farooqui. 

In the email titled “Pakistan —Another reporter jailed and beaten”, the Fenton/Arlook LLC executive wrote: “Another Journalist, Jameel Farooqui, abducted stripped and tortured. He is now in Islamabad police custody under terrorism charges. He did a programme on Bol TV and spoke of the heinous torture of Gill by Islamabad police. 

Police have denied the torture and arrested Jameel for spreading false news with charges of terrorism added.

The email from the Fenton/Arlook LLC executive then offered: “Also, please let me know if you want photos of marks on Dr Gill’s body and of J. Farouqui—clear evidence of beatings.”

Geo News, in this regard, sent questions to Fenton/Arlook LLC but did not get any official response. However, a senior executive of the Fenton/Arlook LLC spoke to the publication on the condition his name is withheld. 

He confirmed that the firm was working to highlight the cases of human rights abuses in Pakistan with a focus on several cases registered against the PTI leadership and supporters. 

PTI has also confirmed that it had engaged a US firm, Fenton/Arlook LLC, to support the party's goal of developing good ties with the United States and the Pakistani diaspora in the US. Hiring lobbying or PR firm is a legal and routine practice in the US and the PTI has fulfilled all legal requirements to hire the firm in the US. The PTI chief Imran Khan has been repeatedly accusing the US for overthrowing his government through conspiracy.

Former PTI minister Fawad Chaudhry has said that Fenton/Arlook LLC is not a lobbyist firm but a media relations firm that the PTI USA has engaged to put its point across in the media. “It’s the job of these firms to develop a relationship between the media and the party.” 

Fenton/Arlook LLC has been hired by PTI USA for a period of six months at the cost of $25,000 per month to manage its public and media relations. The agreement was signed on August 1 between David Fenton of the Fenton/Arlook and Salman Ravala, the attorney for PTI USA. The agreement between the PTI and Fenton/Arlook LLC states that the PTI USA is not supervised, owned or controlled by any foreign political party but will “in certain instances” be “directed by the foreign political party in Pakistan”, therefore the PTI.

“Fenton/Arlook shall provide public relations services, including but not limited to distributing information to and briefing journalists, placing articles and broadcasts, arranging interviews with representatives or supporters of PTI, advising on social media efforts and other such public relations services,” the agreement signed between PTI and the PR firm stated.

It further states that “For this work, Fenton/Arlook will charge a monthly retainer fee of $25,000 plus expenses. Payment of 2 months of fees in advance, or $50,000, plus an expense advance of $5,000 is due on or before August 10th, 2022, to cover work in August and September 2022”.

Originally published in The News